Kyle Wooten

Kyle Wooten assumedly was an Appalachian harmonica player of the late twenties and early thirties who appeared to have recorded in Atlanta on December 1, 1930 for O'keh.
Well, and this is pretty much all I know about him...

Fortunately, there still are quite a few recordings around so in order to learn about him one at least can examine his style. The most popular of his tunes is certainly "Choking the Blues", employing the draw bending technique which back then was often referred to as "choking the reed" or "choking the harp".
Up until then, most of the 1920's harmonica players had played stricktly straight harp, predominantly blowing the harp in it's original key. Therefore, the likes of Wooten practically paved the way to second position cross harp playing, which would quickly develop into the harmonica blues as we know it today.

Kyle Wooten's very original and witty ways of changing percussive rhythms still make him one of my favorite players.
Enough said, now go check him out yourself!




Henry Whitter

Henry Whitter (1892 - 1941) from Grayson County, Virginia, was one of the earliest folk & country harmonica players known.

Having picked up the guitar at a very young age he later on added the fiddle, banjo, harmonica and piano to his repertoire. In 1923 he decided to quit his job at the "Fries Washington"Cotton Mill and go to NYC in order to persue his musical career. Although his two test recordings could not convince the A&R in the first place, he ended up getting signed by O'keh Records in late '23. His solo recordings, featuring "The Wreck of the Old 97" which later was covered by Vernon Dalhart to become the first million-seller in record history, were released in January 1924 and were quite successful.

After meeting blind G.B. Grayson (1887 - 1930) at a fiddlers' convention in 1927, the two went on forming the famous bluegrass duo "Grayson & Whitter".

Especially Whitter's fox chase technique pretty much set the bar for this style and did influence countless successors up until today.

Henry Whitter - Rain Crow Bill Blues

This most famous of his solo harmonica pieces he recorded twice, once in 1923 and again in August 1927, and many of his harmonica works are variations of this particular pattern.

Lost Girl of West Virginia

Lost Train Blues

The Old Time Fox Chase

Also, there is more to be found amongst the Honkingduck78s:

Little Brown Jug

Lonesome Road Blues

Western Country

Where Have You been so Long

Please enjoy!



Braswell's picture appeared!

If you are into pre war harp and have read this blog carefully for the last few months you might have heard about NC harmonica player Francum "Picollo" Braswell before.

From today on his masterly playing can get associated with a face finally, thanks to the kind help of his grandaughter Stark!

So may I present to you: Mister James Francum Braswell Sr.

As I usually do on my YouTube channel I also put together a little educational video about him, including one of his only two known recordings:



"Harmonica Rag" by Joe Filisko

This is just a short update on Joe's repertoire.
He'd been playing lots of pre war tunes on his two albums plus there's a whole lot more on "History of the Blues Harmonica" featuring Dave Barrett, Dennis Gruenling & Kinya Pollard.
However, here's a tune you may not have heard before - "Harmonica Rag", an incredibly jazzy tune originally performed by Chuck Darling in 1930 - please enjoy!



Dave McCarn

David McCarn was born in 1905 in Gaston County, North Carolina. In 1917, at the age of twelve, McCarn began working as a doffer at the Chronical Mill in nearby Belmont, and spent much of the 1920s and 1930s working at a succession of textile mills in and around Gastonia. In order to at least temporarily escape the depressing factory work, McCarn began rambling at an early age and kept doing so for much of the rest of his life. Being a part-time hobo he developed a deeper interest in music and so he picked up the harmonica and even taught himself some rudimentary guitar chords. His harmonica technique was strongly influenced by his work mate Gwen Foster, who taught Dave to blow harp in those days' very common 1st position ragtime style. At an age of 21, Dave McCarn wrote "Cotton Mill Colic", a very pessimistic song that got recorded in 1930. It's about the work and living conditions of cotton mill employees which pretty much tells everything about his personal viewpoint on his workplace. Folkarchive.de's got the lyrics - for those willing to have another look at 'em. Later he formed the Yellow Jackets - the band's only song I know of so far, "Huskin' Bee", is to be found on the "Black and White Hillbilly Music"-sampler (in case you know where to find some more pls comment!) on the TRI Trikont label. In May 1931 McCarn made another four recordings and this time he had his friend Howard Long (1905-1975), a working collegue and also Yellow Jackets band member, accompanying him on guitar. Amongst these was "Bay Rum Blues" - a quite twisted description of a beaverage made from this popular hair tonic and aftershave lotion. They also made a re-recording of "Cotton Mill Colic", named "Serves 'em fine" - this time with slightly different lyrics and applying harmonica. Although these recordings didn't quite sell those days we can be lucky to still being able to listen to McCarn's heritage as an excellent harmonica player, but also as a critically thoughtful and yet very humorous person. David McCarn died on November 7, 1964, of aspirated pneumonia, resulting from cirrhosis of the liver, at the age of fifty-nine. Here's all the legal cuts I found which are relevant from a harmonica player's perspective:

Please enjoy!